Friday, October 13, 2006

Children in church

Recently, my wife was left in tears throughout a communion service because she had been 'rebuked' - because our children had been noisy (I was in a different church that morning).

The person doing the rebuking did later apologise, so this isn't a personal point. Yet this is a serious problem.

Jesus' teaching is clear:

People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant.

The disciples do not wish the children to disturb Jesus - or perhaps disturb them. This makes Jesus angry, he was "much displeased" to use the language of the KJV.

He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

In other words, there is something in children which teaches us about the Kingdom. Where children are banished, so too is the Kingdom. We need to have children present in order to learn the things that Jesus wishes to teach us.

And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Which is the ministry that the church is called to. Where the church does not welcome children into its arms and bless them, it is failing to be the Body of Christ. It has earnt a righteous rebuke from its Lord.

Yet what if children are disturbing the service? I once had a conversation with my director on this point, as I had been expressing sympathy with the desire to have peace and quiet during worship. He rather astutely pointed out that corporate worship is not a substitute for private prayer and contemplation. Both are needed for the health of the soul. If anger and a lack of peace is provoked when worship is disrupted by the noise of the children, then this is a sign that the spiritual life is out of balance. Repentance is required.

There are in fact, many services (the majority offered) where peace and quiet can be expected, and private prayer and contemplation can be strengthened and supported. Yet the main corporate act of worship, our gathered communion - this is where the whole Body gathers with its Lord. And we know that Jesus wants the children to be there - and that he rebuked the disciples who sought to prevent the children from being there.

This is something that I have moved very patiently on for some time.

If God was offended by the cries of a child he would never have become incarnate as one in the stable in Bethlehem.

My patience has worn rather thin.

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